Friday, January 31, 2014

The single homebuyer

Single and ready to buy? If you're looking at jumping into homeownership solo, here are my five top things to consider.

1. Stay within your budget. Buying a home on your own is a fantastic move and great step toward your financial future. But make sure it's a home you can afford if there is a momentary — or longer — blip in your financial profile. If you lose a job, you have a health issue, or anything else happens that could affect your ability to cover your monthly mortgage and other costs, remember you don't have a spouse or significant other to fall back on for the additional monthly nut. So while you are on your own, don't overextend. Buy a home well within your means.

2. Prepare for added chores.  Being the only person with a set of house keys also means being the only person responsible for maintenance. A leaky faucet and overgrown lawn won't take care of themselves. For those single homebuyers who find the idea of maintaining a yard a bit daunting, or who worry that climbing up ladders to clean out the gutters every rainy season is just too "hands-on" for them, condominiums and townhomes or even smaller homes in new communities require less exterior maintenance and might be a good option. In other words, don't buy a home you can't manage yourself.

3. Think of Safety and security. Remember that being a single homeowner doesn't allow for someone to be home the majority of the time. So you will need to consider safety and security issues. You want to be able to lock the door on your way out, and not have to think twice about it. So make sure you are in a low-crime neighborhood and the house or condo feels safe and secure.

4. Consider resale value.  Purchasing a home is a great long-term investment. However, there are many reasons single homebuyers may need to move, such as relocating for a job or a lifestyle change. Therefore, it's important to think about the resale value of prospective properties during the search. You want to be aware of homes and condos that have great general appeal and will be easy to resell if need be.

5. Think about the future. You may buy yourself a nice little home or condo now, but someday you might not be single and you'll add a significant other to your team and possibly even children. Though additional space may not be needed immediately, it's important to consider potential future plans for a home. Having a spare bedroom, if it's affordable, is a smart choice.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Home remodels- where save and where to splurge

From a Realtor's perspective, remodeling choices should also take future homebuyers into account and how much you'll be able to recoup your investment.Overspending could possibly price your home out of your neighborhood, but "cheaping out" could leave your home lacking quality and appeal.

Here are some tips on making sure you see a return on your investment:

Stay with neutral options: Remodels that are too customized or unusual can turn off buyers. Purple wall-to-wall carpet or a walk-in-shower bathroom might sound great to you, but probably wouldn't fit the majority of most homeowners' needs or wants.

Avoid non-standard sizes or finishes: Custom  choices in cabinets, countertops, exterior finishes, and more will also add heavily to your remodeling cost. This isn't always necessary.  Most often you can steer clear of  a full line of custom kitchen cabinets, when semi-custom would do. Even better, if your cabinets are structurally fine, refacing or staining the doors will be cheaper than replacing them altogether

Spend more on quality items that are hard to replace: Permanent fixtures like the bathtub should take priority over ones that you can improve later when you have more money such as the faucet. Likewise, radiant floor heating isn't that expensive to install, but that is if you do it when you're replacing a floor.

Floors and other materials: Laminate flooring, when installed properly are a pretty good looking alternative to hardwood floors. If you already have wood floors, refinish them instead of replacing them.

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Home Improvement Apps

 There are some great apps out there for renovation, building, and redecorating projects.  If you are considering taking on such projects, take a look at these before you get started:

A very resourceful app that can be big help with a renovation: Set project time lines, forecast your spending, track budgets, and manage your to-do's.  

Create accurate floor plans by taking pictures of a space with your smartphone. Instructions are straightforward, and the app lets you mark doorways and windows. Rooms can even be combined into a multispace diagram.

Ikea Catalog
Spot a great sofa in the Ikea catalog? Scan the image with your smart phone or tablet, snap a picture of the room you want to see it in, and voilĂ ! There it is. Works for approximately 90 items in the store's current line.

Design and shopping in one place. Tap on furnishings in the app's gallery and "place" them in a picture of a room on your iPad. Use your finger to move and arrange the items — then just click to purchase the ones you want.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Avoiding frozen pipes

This recent run of freezing weather will no doubt lead to a steep heating bill. But if you’re not careful, the extreme cold also can do some serious damage to your property.  Low temperatures bring about a variety of risks for property owners, including frozen pipes.  Here are some tips for avoiding a costly headache:

• Look for cold spots in your home near outside walls, roofs or windows. If there are pipes nearby, you might want to visit your local hardware store to ask about ways to insulate them. If the pipes get cold enough, the water inside will freeze. When water freezes, it expands, building up pressure and bursting pipes.

• Think about leaving cabinet or closet doors open during extreme cold if it will help to circulate heat around pipes and keep them warm.

• Leaving faucets running at a slow trickle will allow water to continue flowing through your pipe system, preventing freezing. This can be especially helpful if a faucet has pipes close to an outside wall.

• Inspect any pipes that run to water spigots outside your house. If you still have a hose connected to it, disconnect it immediately. The water freezing in that hose will send cold and pressure back into the pipes inside your home.

• You also might want to think about insulating the end of the hose spigot. Hardware stores sell styrofoam attachments to cover the open end of the spigot, but wrapping it with a cloth may also do the same trick.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Want to buy a home in 1 year?

It's a new year, but maybe you are not fully ready to purchase a home.  Want to do it in one year?  Here is a month-by-month look at what you should do to get ready to make that move.

Month 1- Review your credit report and start to build and improve your credit.  Here's a link that may help from CNN Money:

Month 2- Determine what you can afford by assessing your debts, income and savings.  See if you would pre-qualify for a mortgage by using an online mortgage calculator (there are tons out there).  Once you have done this you can decide on what type of a mortgage fits your needs.

Month 3- Decide what kind of home you need. Answering these questions will help you make a decision:
What is important to you? What amenities does your home need to have? Does your home need to be in an area with great schools? Do you need to live near transportation hubs? How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you need?

Month 4- Research housing inventory.Check out neighborhoods where you would like to live, find
 out what properties are available that fit your wants and needs, review the market's "price supports" — jobs, schools, shopping.  Talk to current homeowners and cruise around some neighborhoods.

Month 5- My favorite part- find a real estate agent! It's important to find a motivated agent you can trust. Engage your agents with questions, ask them about current market conditions, let them know when and what you want to buy.

Month 6- Research other professionals that will be involved in the process (attorneys, inspectors, mortgage brokers, and insurance companies). 

Month 7- Get your paperwork ready. You will need a lot of documentation when going through the process of obtaining a mortgage so better to have it sooner than later.  Some things you will need: tax forms, pay stubs, gift letters (if you are receiving money from a 3rd party), and bank statements.

Month 8- Find a mortgage lender and get a pre-approval. 

Month 9- Find a place and get a signed contract. Reaching a sale contract may involve offers and counteroffers until you and the seller reach an agreement on the sale price and contingencies. Inspections and mortgage paperwork will follow.

Month 10- Work out the logistics of moving.  If you're a renter, now's the time to give your landlord the proper notice that you're moving out. You should contact your utility service providers to determine if you'll need to transfer or terminate your service. For the move, you may want to hire a professional. You should also research storage costs if you can't move all of your items at once.     

Month 11- Moving day prep- It’s time to get packing. However, at this stage, packing won't be your only concern: You'll be given your closing date when you'll sign the final paperwork. You should the final walk through before you sign the papers. Be sure you have arranged for the utilities to be ready.

Month 12- Have a contingency plan. Last but not least, don't leave yourself without options. What if things don't go according to plan? What if, for some reason, you can't move in as planned — do you have money set aside or living arrangements and storage for all your things?  If you follow this timeline and make sure you're organized, you can avoid any pitfalls that could wind up costing your money or even your home.